Pairing classic shoot ’em-up gameplay with a unique teleportation gimmick, Velocity Ultra was a pleasant surprise when it first came to the PlayStation Vita in 2013. It was a refreshing twist on a genre that frequently sticks to what has worked best in the past. Now, only one year removed, FuturLab has unleashed Velocity 2X, which not only advances the basic gameplay of its predecessor but also the genre as a whole.
In the game, players are placed into the shoes of Lt. Kai Tana, a former test pilot who awakens following a devastating accident a little worse for the wear. Due to the intense trauma she recently went through, Kai Tana finds a majority of her body covered with cybernetic modifications. Desperate to return to her ship, she teams up with Hjun Ralan III, a member of the peaceful Jintada species who is imprisoned alongside her. The two join forces in order to not only defeat the murderous Vokh species, but to also make sure Kai Tana can return home.
While most shoot ’em-ups only feature the bare minimum when it comes to plot lines, I was pleasantly surprised with the tale FuturLab crafted here. Told through colorful static cutscenes and unlockable journal entries, the story of Kai Tana and Hjun Ralan does a solid job of keeping your attention. It doesn’t hurt that Kai Tana is a wonderful example of a strong, female lead, which is still strangely lacking in this day and age in the world of gaming. She’s courageous, stubborn and caring, and seems more fleshed-out than most protagonists do.
Although Velocity 2X would technically be classified as a shoot ’em-up, it’s more than just a simple R-Type or Gradius clone. Similar to those titles, in-ship combat is played out in a top-down 2D view, and often requires precise movement in order to swerve in and out of enemy fire. While destroying the Vokh is crucial to advancing the plot, the real meat of the game comes from trying to clear each level in the best possible time, with the best possible score. After all, it’s not called Velocity 2X for nothing. In order to accomplish this, players will need to master the Quarp Jet’s boost function, as well as smart bomb shooting, which is handled through the right analog stick.
In specific sections of the game, Kai Tana can leave her ship and stretch her legs in equally fast-paced platforming sections. Featuring Metroid-inspired twisted labyrinths, these sections tend to feature a good mix of explosive action and puzzle solving. With shooting mapped to the right analog stick, players can worry more about seeking out crystals and dodging mines than dealing with enemies. Although, these sections typically handled well, I did come across a handful of frustrating technical glitches each time out. Sometimes Kai Tana would get stuck in a wall and, at times she also wouldn’t toss out her teleportation device, which obviously made advancement a little difficult.
Oh yes, the short-form teleportation. I should probably mention that, considering that it’s the most important aspect of the Quarp Jet.
In order to fly through the increasingly convoluted levels in search of hostages, you’ll need to master the art of teleportation. Things start off simple enough here, as the teleportation device is mostly used to phase through short walls and barriers. As the game progresses, however, FuturLab introduces the idea of long-form teleportation, which gives the game a more puzzle-like experience.
If there was one, non-glitch related problem that I had with Velocity 2X, it pertained to the controls for its teleportation mechanic. In order to teleport, you need to hold down the square button and then move the targeting reticule over to where you want to go. Simple enough, right? The problem comes when you are trying to speed-run through an area. This method of handling the feature simply feels too slow and stiff for a game that is based around speed. It’s not a deal-breaker, as you can just slow down to properly handle these areas, but it is frustrating.
I previously touched upon the colorful cutscenes, but the rest of Velocity 2X is also no slouch in the visual department. The graphics are crisp and both the in-ship and on-foot sections of the game have a real sense of speed. Particularly impressive is the use of lighting, as the glow of Kai Tana’s weapons and the explosions that result from downed enemy ships cover the screen with a gorgeous light show. Although the game doesn’t have spoken dialogue, a special shout-out must be given to its pulse-pounding soundtrack. The music not only matches the on-screen action accurately, but it is also worth listening to outside of the game.
Requiring utmost concentration and coordination, Velocity 2X represents one of the finest examples of the shoot ’em-up genre. By blending together several different gameplay styles, FuturLab has crafted an innovative and fun shooter that would easily be worth checking out even if it wasn’t already included in the PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection. Sporting excellent graphics, exciting music and silky-smooth controls, the title transcends its genre and should be on any PlayStation owner’s radar.
This review was based off the PlayStation 4 version of the title.
Fast, furious and a ton of fun, Velocity 2X represents the absolute pinnacle of the shoot 'em-up genre.